Saturday, April 16, 2016

This week in birds - #202

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:


Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on blueberry bush.
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This is my absolute favorite story of any kind from this week: We know that octopuses are very intelligent and very curious creatures, which means that they don't necessarily take easily to confinement. Such was certainly the case with Inky the octopus, a famed resident at New Zealand's National Aquarium. When a maintenance worker left a gap at the top of his enclosure, Inky didn't hesitate. He squeezed through that gap, headed for a six inch drainage pipe and squeezed through that, making it all the way out to the Pacific and freedom! Godspeed, Inky.

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Despite the fact that snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas is greater than it has been in recent years, it is still only 87 percent of the long-term average and that is bad news for a drought-ridden California. The increased snowpack is not expected to be sufficient to offer real relief from the drought.

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But there is good news for Chesapeake Bay's blue crab population and for the critters that feed on them (including humans). That population has grown by 35 percent and this is expected to be a "robust" season for the crabs.

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The Yellow-eyed Penguin of New Zealand is unique among penguins in that it is a forest dweller. That fact makes it harder to see and, to some extent, harder to protect. The incredibly shy bird is also extremely endangered.

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Scientists are always fiddling with things and revising things that we think we "know." This includes the tree of life. A recent revision shows that the true lords of creation on Earth are bacteria. They’ve been on the planet for billions of years and have irrevocably changed it, while diversifying into endless wonderful and beautiful forms.

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Good news for bees and for the planet. The chemical company Ortho has announced that it will remove neonicotinoid pesticides from its line of products. It will remove the substance from three of its products by 2017 and from five more by 2021.

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An important component of citizen science projects is that they should be systematic in their approach. A new paper in the journal Nature Conservation shows how systematically placed, grid-based transects can help projects monitoring butterflies by reducing habitat bias.

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In 2011, the National Fish and Wildlife Service started reintroducing Whooping Cranes in Louisiana. The new flock was planned as a non-migratory population. There is good news on that front. It was announced this week that a pair has hatched a chick! This is the first wild Whooping Crane chick to hatch in Louisiana in decades. 

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Wind energy is a renewable resource and, as such, sounds like a green energy dream. But for birds and flying mammals, wind farms can be a nightmare. American Bird Conservancy has a list of the 10 deadliest such sites

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When there are no mammalian hunters to bother them on islands, birds can gradually lose the ability to fly. This can prove catastrophic when such hunters show up later. Case in point: the Kakapo, a ground-dwelling parrot on New Zealand. 

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The Great Barrier Reef is facing the worst bleaching event in history and this may prove to be a tipping point for the reef and the marine life around it.

Bleached coral literally looks like it has had chlorine bleach spilled all over it.

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The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher was given protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1995, but the Fish and Wildlife Service this week published a paper that states that there is "substantial information" that the bird is not a true subspecies. If it loses that designation, it could lose its protection. 

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I recently read Helen Macdonald's acclaimed book H is for Hawk, in which she detailed her efforts to train a Northern Goshawk. She alludes to Eurasian Sparrowhawks in the book and seems to indicate that they would be easier to train. Here's another view; one that claims they are the "toughest birds to work with."

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We know that tigers are in trouble and that their survival in the wild is far from assured. Here are six reasons why that should concern us and why we should worry about those magnificent beasts.

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If there is any good news as a result of the occupation by armed domestic terrorists of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon earlier this year, it is this: The occupation brought increased public interest in the refuge and in the spring Harney County Migratory Bird Festival held there. The festival began this week and many of the events were sold out in advance!



12 comments:

  1. I am sad about the bee pesticides being treated so casually, phasing them out in 5 years doesn't thrill me, they should have been banned as soon as the bad effects were known. If I ruled the world.... Lots of interesting news again, Dorothy!

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    1. I totally agree. Nevertheless, phasing them out is a positive step in the right direction - if only a baby step.

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    2. Good for Orhtho but geez Louise, it was over 50 years ago that Rachel Carson shouted out to the world about that particular pesticide and its dangers.

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    3. Hmm...I don't remember her mentioning neonicotinoids, but maybe she did. I mostly remember the DDT. Pesticides, in general, almost always have unintended consequences. That's why I don't use them.

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  2. interesting, thank you for sharing

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  3. Tigers were on the news all day yesterday here in UK – reporting that numbers were up in many countries for the first time. Encouraging news, although lots more needs to be done to ensure the future for tigers.

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    1. I saw those stories, too, and that is good news. Let's hope it is the start of a new trend for these endangered animals.

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  4. There are more good news this week than we often see.
    Love the butterfly pic!
    I hope the tigers make it. They are so wonderful creatures.

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    1. They are wonderful - both the tigers and the tiger swallowtails.

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  5. I am reading Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin. He is constantly alluding to the fact that we can't see the big picture in one lifetime and that there is an overall justice in the universe. I am considering adopting that idea. Doesn't excuse any behaviors but at least gives hope. As does your blog, my friend!

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    1. Thank you, Judy. Hope is, after all, the thing with feathers.

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